Monday, 27 October 2014

Couldn't make it four in a row

The Safari wasn't able to get onto Patch 2 until lunchtime. A grey sort of a day with a bit of a wind but nothing excessive apart from the temperature which was well above the seasonal norm. The tide was high and the larger waves were slopping foam ridden spray over the wall. Fair enough we thought we'll give it a go and we're glad we did. As soon as we looked down the scope there was a Little Gull flitting through the troughs and then four more - that'll do nicely!!!
Then the worst thing happened, when we're on limited time the last thing we want (without wanting to appear rude) is someone coming up to chat about nothing much in particular usual with an opening gambit something gormless like "av yer seen any of them there sea-lions?" Not so today the gentleman was reasonably knowledgeable and asking about the best lightweight scopes for his budget but still stopped us having a proper look at what might have been out there. 
However, if he hadn't stopped to chat we would more than likely missed the Kestrel (P2 #77 - getting closer to our target of 90) that flew along the promenade 'behind' us. Well that one took it's time to appear on the list and we're still waiting for Peregrine and Sparrowhawk to make it onto the list.
Not a sniff of a chance of a pic today.
Had a chat to our Extreme Photographer this evening and learned that he wasn't able to get out unfortunately - so no pics for you this week. Click the Pembrokeshire Birds link on the right to keep up to date with hat's been seen down his way.
Have you all seen this symbol?  Copy it and post it all around the place - legally of course/

Let's hope our favourite swan isn't headed down that route - 33% fewer in just 20 years isn't good!  
Where to next? Should be able to get an early morning look in tomorrow and a lunchtime look too with a bit of luck.
In the meantime let us know what nearly got away with sneaking round the back in your outback

Sunday, 26 October 2014

It's now three in a row

The Safari was a little perturbed by the windy weather this morning, old achy bones Frank wouldn't want to go out in it so we pottered around in the garage and garden for an hour or so, ending up finishing off a bat box the wood for which had been partially cut to size by our Extreme Photographer a while ago (He should have been out in the wilds of deepest darkest Pembrokeshire today trying out his new 600mm this space!).
The weather didn't deteriorate any more and there was no sign of any rain and finding an old mouse nibbled duvet in back of the garage we threw it in the back of the Land Rover for Frank to lie on in the hide and headed off to the nature reserve to meet up with BD (@scyrene)
He was already there by the time we arrived and showed what was thought to be an Alder Leaf Beetle he'd found.
The light this afternoon was 'variable' to say the least, sometimes good, sometimes harsh and sometimes almost dark! There didn't seem to be much about but sit and wait and you never know what might turn up so that's what we did. Frank ended up fast asleep and snoring on his 'new' comfy bed.
There were a good few Coots on the water along with some gulls, mostly Black Headed and Common Gulls with a very cold and wet/ill looking Herring Gull away over on the scrape.
1st winter Black Headed Gull
A large-ish flock of Woodpigeons went westwards over the trees on the far side, a closer look revealed that at least a third of them were Collared Doves, a proper count was interrupted three or four birds in as that one was a small wader. Away over the hospital it flew turning south and then north and at one point looked like it might have thought about turning round and coming back but it didn't. Whatever it was it would have been a new bird on the year's list for here.
Another flock of Woodies came by this one with fewer Collared Doves and no waders. One juvenile Woody landed in front of us for a drink and another flying south along the back of the embankment wasn't one at all but another Jay, annoyingly B was unable to connect with it before it was out of view beyond the nearby branches.
We hoped that a Water Rail might come out of the reed-beds but one never did, a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly a couple of times but didn't show itself.
The ducks looked reet dapper when the sun shone. We had a choice of close Teal and Shovelers with a supporting cast of in-flying Tufted Ducks and Mallards with a pair of Gadwall further out buy the scrape.
Aren't Teal just little stunners - displaying already too when the sun shone on them
OK so it wasn't the most exciting session we've ever had at the nature reserve but as ever there's always something to see and enjoy and you just never know what might drop in or fly through at anytime, so if you don't go and look you deffo won't see.
Where to next? Back on good old Patch 2w tomorrow but not until lunchtime.
In the meantime let us know what flew through unknown in your outback.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Two visits in two days - what's going on?

The Safari noticed there's a new sold sign on this nearby house this morning. It's been on the market and empty for ages but someone has been round keeping an eye on it and tending the mature garden. There's loads of House Sparrows in that shrubbery. Will the new owners keep it or how long will it be before it's ripped out and turned into a car parking area?
This afternoon we had a bit of time to get out to the nature reserve again. On the way we passed the pond near the 'new' hotel and just had to stop!
OK it's a little bit childish but we've always wanted to get this pic, preferably with a Kingfisher but a Heron will do very nicely thank you - isn't wildlife fun!
Once on the path the bright sun catching the red berries made the Hawthorns look like they were on fire - where are the Fieldfares to eat them all, notable by their absence at the moment.
Our  mission was to go and find the Long Eared Owl again to suss out its favourite perches before next weekend, sadly it wasn't were it was yesterday and a thorough search failed to relocate it. Today was a lot quieter birdwise than yesterday, no Greenfinches and only one Redwing. We walked round to the 'other' side meeting PL on the way, he hadn't seen it either today. And now with two us us scanning every visible perch we still had no joy, there's still a lot of greenery on this side. Hopefully the strong winds over the next couple of days will knock most of them off.
We gave up and made our birdless way to the Feeding Station passing yesterday's Shaggy Inkcaps on the way. They hadn't survived, some numpty had stomped on them no doubt thinking cos they're a  'toadstool' they're obviously poisonous and must be destroyed - prats!
There was food at the Feeding Station which had attracted a few of all the usual 'garden' suspects, Great Tits, a Blue Tit, Chaffinches, a Robin and a Dunnock or two. A Goldfinch sang loudy from the top of a nearby tree. 
An old birdtable post now has a small Rowan tree growing out of the top.
All of a sudden the birds did one, the culprit was on the ground not in the air.
Who me? I never scared no boidies...
There wasn't just this one there were two! And one of them has discovered it can fit through the anti-Pheasant defences and get to the seeds
Once again we were time constrained and all too soon it was time to make tracks, a very pleasant hour or so in the sunshine even if we didn't find the Long Eared Owl.
Where to next? Back again tomorrow unless something twitchable has turned up locally, even then we'll probably put in an appearance at some time during the day.
In the meantime let us know who's got where they shouldn't have in your outback.

Friday, 24 October 2014

They're/it's back and a bit of luck

The Safari was able to get to the nature reserve for lunch today and had a wander down the main drag. As soon as we got out of the Land Rover we heard an unseen Skylark going over. 
Might be up for sale sometime soon
Not so unseen and definitely heard were the 35 or so Jackdaws going south. A few Greenfinches dropped in to the scrub to feast on the multitude of berries.
A walk to the Feeding Station gave us the last Bramble flower of the year perched between the shriveled remains of uneaten berries. 
Beneath it was a cluster of growing Shaggy Inkcaps, just right for picking and eating but not these - too close to a million and one passing dogs!
A brief visit to the Viewing Platform gave us a singing Cetti's Warbler and a shrieking Water Rail. Conditions looked good for Otter spotting but we didn't linger long - wonder if there's any still about.
Walking round the main drag we saw a couple of Redwings fly out of the Hawthorn scrub to our left. The further we walked the more we flushed, they were really skittish and wouldn't settle in view for a pic, probably at least 20 in all with a few more Greenfinches in the area too. 
For some unknown reason we went down to the hide, dunno why you can't see out of it just yet - needs more wind and the Starlings to knock the reeds down. We have had news of 5 - 6000 Starlings roosting of late but they won't have been in this part of the reedbed. Well worth the visit though as we sat on the bench and peered out three birds flew from the SE and over the mere, three Jays (MMLNR #89)! They were over us too quickly to get a pic and we dived out the door but at the rear of the hide there is a copse of tall trees which totally obscured our aim, so no joy.
Retracing our steps up the path we stopped at the Long Eared Owl watching spot and looked for said owl...without success, we looked and looked and looked but couldn't find it. On the point of giving up a regular friendly dog walker came past and told us someone had just told him it was there - but where??? We looked and looked again, again without success and then there it was or at least there were it's feet - we spotted the lower half of it in the upper quarter of our field of view. Phew! We'd been looking too low. Close to where it was last year but further back and in a different tree.
Shame the camera focused on the twig a yard or so in front of it...dohhh
Job done! Now let's hope it sticks around and remains 'easy' - there's a bit of an 'event' coming up.
Time to have a quick look to see if the Barn Owl was showing in its box. It wasn't but we did pick up a couple more Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails. A gang of Long Tailed Tits had worked along the hedgerow by the dyke and come to the end and were now 'stuck'; where to next???
Some more Skylarks and a few Meadow Pipits went over and then another Jay - and this one landed but dived into the back of distant Willow bush so again not pic.
Dashing back to the Land Rover we noticed the Woodpigeons feeding on the berries were looking rather dapper in the bright afternoon light.
Where to next? Might well be back for another look tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in the bushes in your outback.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Out of fashion?

The Safari was able to get an early morning look at Patch 2 today but little was happening. 11 Cormorants flew along the advancing tide-line going towards the estuary and three more passed much further out. The Common Scoters survived the storm there were plenty of them flying this way and that – who knows why the go where they do. You have to respect and admire those little ducks for sitting it out yesterday – we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again they are seriously tough cookies! A lone Shelduck was the ‘best’ sighting of the post-dawn gloom.
Came across some Gorse in flower in the car park yesterday but it was being blown around something rotten in the hooley so we waited until this morning to get a pic, still a bit breezy but not as silly as yesterday!
There’s an old saying about gorse that kissing will go out of fashion when it stops flowering because if you find a patch of Gorse you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be at least one flower on it somewhere.
Anyway it’s bright and cheery on an otherwise dull day.
Dreadful visibility and increasingly heavy drizzle at lunchtime so no joy at all on the seabird front.
Where to next? We'll try again tomorrow morning.
In the meantime let us know what turned up in the drizzle in your outback.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It’s a bit windy out there

The Safari was out in the teeth of the gale this morning with winds approaching 70mph. But nothing we’ve haven’t seen before. We say pah in the face of these ex-hurricanes. 

No chance of an early morning look at Patch 2 but we were out braving the weather as soon as we were able at lunchtime. The sea was almost pure white with foam and some of the waves in the distance were scary - absolutely massive!
Visibility wasn’t as bad as we’d feared but holding the scope still was an issue, but not much of an issue as hold our self still – we were being buffeted about like crazy. When we went to the gate to take the pic the wind being funneled up the slade was horrendous easily touching 80mph it was difficult to stand up there never mind stand still.
Our watch point was a fraction calmer but still the odd gust made us sway.
Hopeful for a Leach’s Petrel we watched northwards towards the end of the pier looking down the troughs for as long as we dared. A few Great Black Backed Gulls were cruising almost defying the gale to blow them away from their desired course. A couple of Cormorants flew by, probably going to the estuary to roost now the tide was dropping – how on earth can they feed at sea in those conditions?
Local Black Headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls made up most of the rest apart from a flock of Oystercatchers heading out to sea – why??? And another single battling its way towards the estuary.
All too soon we ran out of time but just in time as a huge squall was about to dump torrential horizontal rain on us when we emerged from under the pulled down hood of our jacket.
Not enough time at all to do it justice today, Leach's Petrels, Sabine's Gull and Long Tailed Skua all seen down the coast aways - pair of gloves wouldn't have gone amiss either.
Where to next? Not sure if we've got a school group tomorrow or if they've shy'd off. 
In the meantime let us know what the white water was up to in your outback.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Long time no see

The Safari had arranged to meet up with our long time chums from the southern end of Safari-land for a days camaraderie and birding around some our regular haunts. We'd arranged to meet at the nature reserve with a sort-of plan to go north to a good birding spot then work our way back to the nature reserve calling in a few other locations as we passed them.
All was going swimmingly until we had a later than anticipated start and 'lost' one car load somewhere on the adjacent caravan site for several minutes. "Where are you?" we asked over the phone..."by the Sparrowhawk" came the reply...."Where's the Sparrowhawk? "By a laser thingy!" "What laser thingy?"
While waiting for everyone to get together, we didn't know everyone was already on site by now, we had five minutes in the hide and were lucky enough to watch a small flock of Whooper Swans (MMLNR #87) drop in, first alerted to their presence by their beautiful haunting calls we had just milliseconds to alter the camera settings find them in the viewfinder and blast off a few shots.
A call told us it was time to meet at the allotted place by the soon to be refurbished and enlarged, Ranger Base and as we The Gang turned up and got their kit out of their cars a Grey Wagtail (MMLNR #88) dropped on to a nearby puddle...two site year birds! Not a bad start to the day's proceedings.
We had another look from the hide but by now the Whooper Swans, 19 of them altogether IH told us, had been seen off by the still extremely territorial Mute Swans. A regular winter occurrence if slightly disappointing that the Whoopers rarely get a chance to settle and roost overnight.
A Ceti's Warbler sang on and off for us but wouldn't show unlike the Wren and Robin. Teal and Shovelers showed well but generally it was fairly quite and we couldn't find any Snipe, one of our team's target birds for the day, in the cut patch of reeds in front of the hide. Nor could we find any anywhere else! Well actually there were couple of other things of note, a couple of dragonflies were buzzing around and one stayed still enough to be identified by AB as a male Southern Hawker, the first 'record' for a good few years that we've heard off suggesting that they are seriously over-looked and consequence under-recorded. Across the hide window was a spider's web made by an Amorobius species, the male was in the centre of the web and the female was secreted at the top of the web under the window frame - his days are numbered, unless he doesn't mate of course!
More Cetti's Warblers were heard in the reeds as we walked round to the scrub where the Long Eared Owl had been seen for the first time this season recently. Being still only mid October there are still far too many leaves on the trees to make finding such a camouflaged bird easy - and we didn't! There were lots of Blackbirds enjoying the Apples but also plenty of signs that people have been breaking through the fences to relieve the trees of their fruit and the birds their winter food supply. This year there is an abundance of Hawthorn berries on the nature reserve for the birds to go at so all should be well. Unlike the drive to our next site during which we passed mile upon mile of flailed hedgerow with barely a berry to be seen.
We retraced our steps and then cut off of on the path out of the reserve to see if we could see the owl from the path around the outside of the reserve - even more green vegetation to peer through and again we had no joy - time to move on.
Our convoy headed north to the little estuary/saltmarsh which has now been renamed - with a name that is 'unsuitable' for a public forum which younger persons and those of a delicate disposition read but which will now not be able to be erased from our memory!
We didn't stop at the pub but headed strait to the adjacent cafe for a bite to eat.
Spot the deliberate mistake
While The Gang munched their way through variously filled panini and a spam and egg butty - didn't know you could still get spam never mind it being served in a reputable establishment! - a Ladybird was found on the table, this after earlier discussion at the nature reserve of copious or not numbers of Ladybirds turning up and had anyone seen any, the consensus was none of us had.
This one's identity was found to be one of those nasty cannibalistic, STD carrying native Ladybird killing Harlequin Ladybirds. They come in a bewildering variety of colours and number of spots but note the red/brown legs and the 'M' (or 'W') on the pronotum.
More calories than you can shake a large stick at devoured it was time for some birding. A look at the creeks gave us loads of Redshanks and Teal but the stars here were no fewer than three Common Sandpipers. They, or at least one, often winter here.
Out on the river there were shed loads of Golden Plovers and Lapwings, a good few Curlews with a nice flock of Wigeon thrown in for good measure.
The wind was picking up making passerines hard to find, which was shame as the old railway has 'interesting' bushes where a roving tit flock could easily hold a Yellow Browed Warbler but not today.
A herd of cattle decided to cross the river, we've visited this site many times but not seen this sign of John Wayne driving them so it must be a regular thing they do...the grass is always greener and all that.
Try as we might we couldn't find the Spotted Redshanks but the previously wanted Snipe showed up and showed up out in the open on the mud banks giving excellent scope views. A raptor shot through and landed on the marsh. Peregrine, Merlin? No a big female Sparrowhawk, a little unusual out there well away from any cover.
Another flock of Redshanks were searched through to reveal a large male Ruff but still no Spotted Redshanks.
The birding degenerated into general chat and banter with cursory looks at the marsh.
Sure they're pretending to concentrate
We closed the session with the tide coming in and the call of a Greenshank, Those creeks can hide a multitude of birds and did so quite quite effectively today.
We ran out of time to visit any of the other sites we'd planned to have a shuffy at.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes but sure as eggs is eggs we'll be birding together again sometime soon this winter, and we're sure it'll be a laugh a minute again - you don't want too take this birding too seriously, it's supposed to be fun and with this lot it certainly is.
Where to next? Family day coming up so our next safari-ing will be tomorrow lunchtime on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's hiding in the mud in your outback.